Do you dread every morning, wary of what might be a meltdown from one of your children?
Getting a family up, dressed, fed, teeth brushed and out the door with all the things they need to get through the day properly can be one of the most stressful things you do each day, but it doesn’t have to be if you set some routines and prepare for it.
Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when creating a less chaotic morning routine for you and your kids.
1. Make sure everyone is getting enough sleep
The first things to check before looking at the morning routine is whether everyone is getting enough sleep. We’ve written about it here many times before – for kids and adults – but the importance of the right amount of sleep can’t be overstated.
2. Prepare the night before
If you’re satisfied everyone is getting enough sleep, the next step is to minimise the number of responsibilities everyone has in the morning. Here are some of the things that can be done the night before.
- Prepare breakfast, It depends on what sort of breakfast you like, but if you can prepare food on the previous night, it will save a ton of time in the morning. If it’s cereal, put it in a plate and cover it with wrap overnight (obviously without the milk in it). If it’s fruit, slice up the fruit, cover it and place it in the ‘fridge overnight. If you know what plates and cutlery you’ll need, get them out ready.
- Pack lunches.
- Get clothes ready. This applies to you, and your partner, as much as it does to your children. If they don’t wear school uniform, then involve them in the decision-making about what to wear the next day. It’s a great way of giving them some control over the morning routine.
- Have a place to put all school essentials. This way you're not searching for backpacks, shoes, sports clothes, lunch boxes etc. each morning.
3. Get up before the kids
This may seem like common sense, but in practice, it's not unusual for children to beat their sleep-deprived parents to the morning punch.
If you set your alarm for at least 15-30 minutes before your kids wake up, establishing a morning routine for kids becomes much easier, and you'll be setting the whole family up for a successful morning. Ideally you will be showered, dressed, and packed up for the day by the time the younger ones awake. It’s always a nice time to enjoy a quiet coffee to yourself also.
My husband and I both like to exercise in the morning so we get up around an hour or more before the kids on those mornings, depending on what form of exercise we're doing. It makes for an early start but it also helps us both get through the day.
We also put all our own things in the car before the kids up, so that we aren't searching for our own things at the last minute along with trying to load up the kids, making sure the dog is happy in the backyard, turning off electrical items like lights and radio and locking up the house. If you’re telling children to prepare ahead of time or keep all of their things in a designated place it’s not a good look if you’re shouting "where's my phone?" to your spouse.
4. Have a morning checklist
If you have younger kids, use pictures instead of just words in a checklist of what they need to do. For example:
- Wash face / shower (depending on age)
- Get dressed
- Feed dog
- Eat breakfast
- Brush teeth
- Comb hair
- Put on shoes
- Grab lunchbox
- Head out the door
Once you have picked a morning routine for kids, go through all of the steps with them, talking about each step as you go along your morning. This will help you recognise any glitches or perhaps the need to re-order some of the steps.
Encourage your child to take ownership of these tasks and try not to do everything for them. It might be quicker in the short term to put their socks on for them, but it's not the best thing for them. Children get an enormous sense of achievement out of doing things for themselves, and it’s good to encourage their effort and independence.
5. Remain calm
Your kids can sense when you are rushed and frantic and they will slow down and resist. If you are following these ideas, you shouldn't be rushed - but things can come up at the last minute. When you’re feeling it’s all too much, talk to them about it. Get on the same level with your child and explain why you need help at that moment and give them a task which they can own.
6. Make weekends different
It's a good idea not to stray too much from the routine on the weekends, especially in terms of wake-up time, but you can still make weekends feel special.
In our house, we always go do the grocery shopping on Saturday mornings and everyone is welcome to be part of it, to help choose food for the week ahead. After the shopping, we’ll visit the local café (except when sport is on) as a treat. It’s not something that any of us get an opportunity to do during the week.
We generally have at least two of the children with us, if not the older one (who is now 15); although if she decides to come with us, she puts a lot of effort into what she’s going to wear. When we first noticed this, we thought it was amusing, but I realised because it’s a different routine from weekdays and school uniform.
On Sunday morning, we sit down and have a hot breakfast together. Every week without fail. It is the only day of the week where we have a hot breakfast and where we all sit together over breakfast. On weekdays, we’ve all got our routines; on Saturday, we’re relaxed about the routine; so Sunday morning is a great family time.